TEAM Works! Punta Gorda Works!
These past weeks I've had my faith in Punta Gorda reinforced. This is indeed a place where neighbors pitch in to help each other. I was concerned that we would need to reprise our role of helping to plan a recovery as we did after Hurricane Charley. I reached out to the City Manager and Fire Chief in advance to let them know we would marshall volunteers for whatever was needed. Instead, we were thankfully spared, and a simpler role was in order. The City has twenty-three parks, all of which were now covered with debris. The call went out and forty-four
individuals participated in some portion of the clean-up event which went on for three days. They logged 123 hours of work. City Manager Howard Kunik commented on the effort:
"Once again TEAM comes to the aid of the community. When called upon to assist in our parks cleanup caused by Irma, volunteers worked to help clear debris throughout our park system. Since Hurricane Charley, the organization has held steadfast in their partnership with the City, and this was no exception. Thank you to all!
I was amazed to learn that both the Animal Welfare League & the Peace River Wildlife Center were able to evacuate most of their animals to foster homes or homes of volunteers and staff. I can't quite picture a Pelican in my kitchen, but thank you to others who made such accommodations. Equally amazing is that thirty percent of the animals farmed out by the Animal Welfare League were adopted by their foster homes and did not return to the shelter.
This week I attended a fundraiser for the Crossroads Hope Academy. Their residential facility for foster care boys was badly damaged in the storm. The PGICA was packed with over 400 donors and friends. So many people in this town cherish and value this fine program for youth.
My favorite hurricane recovery story is a testimony to the power of one individual. A rather remarkable woman in our community decided to gather up as much food, toiletries, water, diapers and cash as she could. She and a friend set off for Immokalee and distributed the items directly to those in need. The experience was so powerful that she decided to do it again a few days later, but this time she would target the badly flooded Arcadia community. She mentioned it casually to some other friends, who called the pastor at the Congregational United Church. The next morning the request went out to the congregation. Just twenty-four hours later, the result was over $11,000 in cash and fifteen vans full of food and supplies. There was also enough clothing donated to fill fifteen more vans. The speed with which this informal mobilization came together was dazzling. With the help of our Fire Chief, Ray Briggs, they connected with relief efforts in Fort Ogden and Arcadia, who were stunned at this surprise delivery.
There have been many other stories of generosity and kindness in the last two weeks. It's part of the culture of this amazing little town to help each other without question. This is really the important part of what makes us special. We should all try to remember that.